Spain Ends Run as Superpower

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – With its superstars aging and its loyal coach slow to blend in young talent, Spain’s glorious reign as the superpower of world football was bound to end.

The Spanish weren’t favored to repeat as World Cup champions. But few expected the utter collapse that ended Wednesday with a 2-0 loss Chile, knocking Spain from contention and ending the run of the greatest team of the century.

Chile’s pace and skill produced a dominating win similar to so many Spanish victories over the past six years. Spain was outplayed, out-run and out-fought.

The 5-1 beating by the Netherlands Friday was shocking and foretold where coach Vicente del Bosque’s team was heading: Home.

“If you think about everything accomplished, and you told me we would be eliminated in group stage, I wouldn’t believe you,” del Bosque said.

“We have no excuses. It’s a sad day for all of the players.”

Six of Spain’s squad has played at least 100 national team games while winning the 2010 World Cup and the European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

“Success is not eternal,” said Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli, whose hyperactive energy around the dugout was shared by his team. “This generation could not continue with that success and you can understand it.”

“It’s very special the fact we were able to play today against the World Cup champions the way we did,” Sampaoli said, and “eliminate them with courage, intensity and attack.”

Del Bosque acknowledged that his players were “too slow, timid from the start.”

Chile twice came close to scoring in the first 90 seconds, and led in the 20th minute when Eduardo Vargas finished a slick move of incisive passing that was truly Spanish in its execution.

Croatia 4, Cameroon 0

MANAUS, Brazil (AP) – Mario Mandzukic scored two goals Wednesday to keep Croatia in the mix at the World Cup with a 4-0 win over 10-man Cameroon, which cannot now advance from the group stage.

Mandzukic, who returned to the team at the Arena da Amazonia after sitting out the opening loss to Brazil through suspension, headed in a corner from Danijel Pranjic in the 61st minute and then knocked in a rebound in the 73rd of the Group A game.

Ivan Perisic also scored one goal and made another for Ivica Olic.

Cameroon was reduced to 10 men after midfielder Alex Song was given a red card for elbowing Mandzukic in the back in an off-the-ball incident in the 40th minute.

The team started without the injured Samuel Eto’o, the team’s best player.

Netherlands 3,

Australia 2

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) – A second-half by strike by substitute Memphis Depay gave Netherlands a 3-2 comeback victory over Australia in an absorbing World Cup Group B match on Wednesday.

The result puts Netherlands into a strong position to advance to the last 16 with two wins, including the opening 5-1 rout of defending champion Spain. It almost surely puts Australia out of contention with two defeats.

The Dutch opened the scoring in the 20th minute through a Arjen Robben solo effort but Australia responded seconds later, with Tim Cahill’s stunning volley making it 1-1 before the halftime break.